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A Heartbeat Away    by Eleanor Jones order for
Heartbeat Away
by Eleanor Jones
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

A Heartbeat Away is set in contemporary England, and narrated by Lucy McTavish. She contemplates her past with Daniel and her current relationship with Alex. (The reader is left to guess for a short while who these men are.) Lucy is currently living in London, and goes off for a run in the park. There she meets a man with whom she immediately connects - the feelings are mutual. Soon afterwards, the man witnesses Lucy being hit by a car as she crosses the street.

The car drives off, and the man goes over to see if Lucy is alive. He doesn't know her, but feels that strong connection to her. When he finds out her name, he is in shock. Lucy is taken to the hospital in a coma, and her life flashes before her. The reader goes with her into her childhood years and friendship with Daniel, a slightly older boy who takes it upon himself to protect and befriend her. Lucy grew up in a dysfunctional home in the countryside of England. Her family did not have much money, and her father was constantly in and out of her life. Her mother was mentally ill, always taking to her bed.

Daniel's family helps take care of Lucy when her own mother is not well enough to do so. As Lucy gets older, she learns what her father is really like, and to survive the emotional trauma she bonds closely with Daniel's family, who treat her like their own daughter. While her mother is in and out of hospitals, Lucy grows up under the guidance of the Browns. When her mother returns home for good, her aunt Violet, a strict military woman, comes to live with them. Violet is one of the reasons Lucy makes it to adulthood, and Lucy grows to love her dear aunt.

Memories of riding horses, playing with the dogs, home cooked meals - this is what Lucy thinks of when she recalls her childhood with the Browns. As the two children grow up, Lucy and Daniel bond in other ways. Unfortunately, a tragedy before their wedding sends Lucy into a tailspin. She moves away to the city against her family's wishes, and thus the story comes full circle.

A good part of A Heartbeat Away reads like an old fashioned romance by Josephine Cox, taking the reader to a gentler place and time. Lucy's past contrasts greatly with the current story line, in which she tries to find happiness in the big city, and is drawn to darker forces that take her to dangerous places. I didn't see the tearjerker of an ending coming. Though I suspect not all readers will buy into it, for me it worked.

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